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Friday, October 31, 2008.  It was an odd Halloween with some ups and downs, but in the end, everything worked out.  Jackson got sick during the afternoon, so he missed trick or treating on Main Street.  The boys also didn't get to swing by my office and we had to skip going to Claudville this year.  Our friends Jeff and Samuel were nice enough to take Ben with them to Main Street though, which is Ben's favorite part of Halloween.  Jeff was also nice enough to take lots of photos, which was probably no small feat given how many kids were running around.  We eventually decided that Jackson was car sick from his bus ride and not suffering from a stomach virus, so we ventured out, joining Jeff and Sam again, this time going house to house in their neighborhood.  Ben was afraid of all the spooky things running around in the dark, so he stayed inside the house with Timmesa, Megan and Matthew .

Thursday, October 30th, 2008. Things didn't improve on the home front this week.  Amy got a call from the school nurse Wednesday.  Jackson had pink eye.  Amy felt miserable yesterday, so it was a lucky break that Jackson's pediatrician was too swamped to see him, choosing rather to call the prescription into the drug store, saving Amy and the boys a trip to King and hours spent in a waiting room full of other sick people.  Ben is better and back in school, but Jackson stayed home today with a cold and cough.  Amy still doesn't feel better and it didn't help any that I was out of town two days this week, which hasn't given her much of a chance to rest.  Tomorrow is Halloween, so we're hoping everyone miraculously recovers by morning, because it's going to be a long, busy day.
We had the carpets cleaned last week.  The person that gave Amy the estimate said that he would take the rug, clean it, then return it the next day.  But the people that actually took the rug were a little more vague and only said that we would get it back sometime this week.  Amy had to call three times to get them to tell her exactly when it would be back.  They told her she would have it back on Friday.  After arguing that she wouldn't be available on Friday, they finally agreed to bring it back this afternoon.  Guess what, they hadn't touched it.  Amy had to call back and complain.  After trying to convince her that they had actually cleaned it, they finally agreed to come out and clean it at our house.  We've got two boys and the rug sits under the dining room table, so it's not hard to tell whether or not it's been cleaned.  Who takes a rug, then brings it back without touching it?  I doubt they even unrolled it.  Amazing.
Last weekend, on the day that Ben developed his case of pink eye, I was on the Kentucky/Virginia border paddling the Pound River and the Russell Fork of the Big Sandy River.  Friends Bob and Joe picked me up Saturday morning at six, we met other paddling friends at the Pound River around ten, spent an exciting day paddling and a beautiful evening camping in Breaks Interstate Park.  It was a great group and I had a fantastic time, both on and off the water.  Bob and Joe cracked me up almost the whole way there and back, which made the drive go quickly.  We had a lot of fun around the campfire that night as well.  I've got photos and a video here.   If you watch the video, I am the nut sliding down the hill at the beginning. 
The boys carved their pumpkins tonight and went to sleep excited about tomorrow.  Ben will be dressed as Indiana Jones, while Jackson will be Ben Roethlisberger.  And finally, to answer our visitor from Chili's question, both boys are currently taking a break from karate class.  Jackson is pretty focused on other sports, specifically basketball which starts this week.  Ben will probably be the first to resume studying, although I'm not sure when.

Tuesday, October 28th, 2008. I blame the blurriness of today's photos on the fact that it was too cold last night to hold the camera steady.  Jackson's team wrapped up their 2008 soccer season with a close, defensive struggle in very cold, windy conditions.  They lost 0-1 on a penalty kick, but played well, as did the opposing team.  But oh man was it cold.  Deana, who along with Papa, came to watch the game, left early, taking Ben with her, because it was just too cold for the little guy.  Amy meanwhile was making her own chilly walk, from the Democratic headquarters to the public library to kick-off early voting here in town.  The walk followed a meeting that included Edie Falco from The Sopranos.  We've never seen the show, so that part wasn't as exciting for Amy as the simple act of casting a ballot in this year's election in a state that, according to the polls, will be very close. Ben, Jackson and Amy all paid the price for being outside though.  Amy had to go to the doctor after waking to a terrible sinus infection.  She sounds and feels absolutely miserable.  Ben, whose cold, along with a case of pink eye, had disappeared over the weekend, stayed home from school today due to his cold's re-appearance And Jackson now has his own case of the sniffles.

Friday, October 24th, 2008.  Amy and Ben are both still under the weather.  Amy had to cancel campaign work at the Democratic headquarters as well as a movie night with friends, but hopefully it's just a cold and will be short lived.

Last Saturday, we not only had the opportunity to watch our nephew Jimmy play soccer, but also to meet our nephew Jesse's girlfriend Savannah.  Both were a pleasure.  Jimmy has changed an unbelievable amount since we last saw him over the Summer.  His voice is deeper and he's stretched out taller and leaner.   It was the main topic of conversation all weekend.

Thursday, October 23rd, 2008.  It's been a really busy week, so I'm just now getting around to posting photos from the weekend.  We went to Colonial Heights for our niece Nicole's birthday party and stayed with Amy's brother Alan and sister-in-law Charla.  It was a great weekend and we started missing everyone before we even made it home, especially Jackson who cried himself to sleep Sunday night. 
On Monday night Jackson's soccer team won the first game of their tournament after two rounds of penalty kicks, following a 1-1 score at the end of regulation and a scoreless overtime period.  It was a really fun game to watch because all the players on both teams were cheering and rooting for their fellow players during the penalty kicks and they all had great kicks.  Jackson's team now advances to the semi-finals on Saturday. 
Amy's had a week full of errands while I have primarily been out of town, then today, both she and Ben came down with some major cold symptoms.  Jackson's contacts have continued to go well and so far appear to be a great change for him.

Thursday, October 16th, 2008.  Today's photos are from last Saturday's Autumn Leaves Festival.  Each year that we have attended the festival, the boys have each made a candle.  We now have quiet a collection of them on the mantel in their playroom.  I think that finally covers all the photos from the weekend.
This morning, things started off perfect.  Everyone woke up on time, Amy went to the gym, we had cake for breakfast, except for Jackson who only eats oatmeal.   Jackson's first contact went in on his very first try, with no help from an adult.  Then things hit a bump.  It took forty-five minutes to get the second contact in, which made him late for school and me late for work.  I was very impressed though that he stuck with it and didn't become discouraged.  Part of the deal with him getting contacts was that he would have to be mature enough and responsible enough to put them in without Amy or I forcing him to do it.  My fear was that as soon as it became really difficult, he would stop trying.  But this morning, he came through like a trooper.  I think that is a testament to how helpful they are to him and to how much he, at this point, doesn't want to wear glasses, because I personally would have been ready to throw the contacts out the window after that many failed attempts.  I'd also like to say that Amy and I both miss the glasses, but how could we not after seven years, starting here, when he looked like this.

When I picked Ben up from pre-school today, he showed me his schoolwork.  He held up one page and said "That's what I had to do for getting my name on the board"  I asked him what he did to get his name on the board.  In a non-interested cavalier tone, he said "Bad things."  What bad things.  "Lots of bad things."  Who did you do bad things with, or was it just you?  "Oh, it was just me."  Apparently Ben doesn't really sweat getting into trouble the way Jackson did.

Wednesday, October 15th, 2008.  Today's photos are once again from Sunday.  I really like today's un-cropped, un-edited photo of Jackson from Sunday and the photo of Hama walking through the field beside her grandmother's house that she once played in as a child. 
Amy had a busy Wednesday that included, between taking Ben to pre-school and picking him up, volunteer work at our town's Democratic headquarters and volunteer work at our elementary school where she tutors reading.  This afternoon included a visit with Jackson's third grade teacher which went very well.   It was a hot, pretty day that allowed Jackson to shoot some basketball in the driveway and me to finally cut our grass.  And fresh out of the oven, Amy just pulled out the best cake made from apples from the tree in today's other photo.

Tuesday, October 14th, 2008.  Today I'm posting photos from our Pumpkin Patch gallery, which we started back when Jackson picked out this pumpkin at Millennium Charter Academy in 2001.  This year, the boys picked out their pumpkins from the same farm we visited in 2004.  That year, Jackson was the one struggling to carry his own pumpkin, this time it was Ben.  When we arrived at the farm, we found this friendly little fellow among the pumpkins.  As most of you already know, Ben is truly afraid of dogs, even his own.  When the Basset Hound ran toward Ben, Ben started running, screaming and crying in the other direction, zig zagging along the row of pumpkins.   The Basset Hound tried to match Ben's quick turns, but somewhere along the way, his big ears and big paws got tangled up with Ben's little legs and the two crashed in spectacular fashion.  Ben ended up on top of the poor dog with his arms wrapped completely around it.  I looked at Amy and said that only our little Ben could get wiped out by a Basset Hound.  It was a little sad, and a little funny at the same time, to see Ben laying completely on top of the thing he was trying so desperately to get away from.  The dog was really sweet and Amy didn't mind sitting with it long enough for Ben to finish selecting his jack-o-lantern.

 

Monday, October 13th, 2008. We had a great Sunday, spent primarily in Virginia with the boys' great-grandmother.  The day started with lunch at Hama's house, followed by picking apples and walnuts in her yard.  Hama then rode with us up the mountain, along the parkway, then back to Claudville by way of Cana.  We made stops to pick apples off a tree planted by one of our great, great, greats in Bellspur, play football and pick up chestnuts at Hama's parent's house overlooking Kibler Valley, pick out pumpkins at Painter's farm beside the parkway, drink sodas at the Orchard Gap Deli, pick out more produce and candy at one produce stand, then more at another.   Hama was, as usual, wonderful company and it was just a beautiful, relaxing day.  Jackson played football at almost every stop we made.  He's really enjoying wearing contacts instead of his glasses and has trimmed the time it takes to put them in from thirty minutes to seven.  With his friends Matthew, Samuel and Timmesa on hand to watch, Jackson played the last soccer game of the regular season tonight, loosing 1-2 giving his team a record of 1-4-2.  I think he is having more fun playing soccer this year than any other and continues to play his position well.  His tournament starts next Monday.  Ben also finished his season tonight and came home with another shiny medal for his trophy shelf.

 

Saturday, October 11th, 2008.  I'm very, very proud of my three racers.  Amy ran in this morning's 5K On The Greenway.  Jackson finished 5th in the 1/2 mile Fun Run.  And Ben ran in the five and under Fun Run.  They all ran fast and did very well.  Ben probably surprised me the most, he doesn't usually run that fast.  Jackson has been running a mile each day during recess and had a very nice pace during his race.  Amy always amazes me when she runs.  I've got a 16MB video that includes clips, not only of Team Heath, but also of many of our other running friends. 

We ate lunch on a very crowded Main Street at the Autumn Leaves Festival.  The boys went to see Beverly Hills Chihuahua during the afternoon with their aunt Deana, while Amy and I took a very nice nap on the couch.  Then tonight, after supper, we closed the day out at the playground and on the basketball court.  What a nice day.  In other really big news, today was Jackson's second day with contacts.  He's very happy about it and so far has shown great resolve in spending the time it takes to put them in.  He's been taking his glasses off on his way into school this year, then putting them back on as he gets off the school bus.  His prescription is strong enough that his pediatric opthalmologist says he needs to wear something all day, whether it be contacts or glasses.  So hopefully contacts will be the answer and will be a positive change for him.

Thursday, October 9th, 2008.   I spent my weekend in beautiful Breaks, Virginia on the Kentucky border paddling the Russell Fork of the Big Sandy River.  Many, many photos and a trip report here.  We had great weather, a relaxing campsite, action packed days on the river and just tons of fun.  This is a trip that I missed last year and I've looked forward to it for a long time.

 

20 Stitches on the Russell Fork of the Big Sandy An eddy in the trees  - Pound River Lang on the Russell Fork River Gabriella on the Pound River Camp in Breaks Interstate Park

Wednesday, October 8th, 2008.  Two of today's photos are from our high school's soccer game last Thursday night.  The other photo was from Main Street during Mayberry Days.  I met Amy and Ben at Barney's for lunch and found that not only was James Best, the actor that played Roscoe P Coltrain on The Dukes of Hazzard and that starred in one really good Andy Griffith Show episode, in town, but so was the General Lee.  A Roscoe look alike ate at the table behind us.

While I was out of town over the weekend, Amy took the boys to Ben's soccer game, a friends house to play, the movies to see Igor, my grandmother's house to pick radishes and peppers from the garden and to the playground for a clean-up project with the Junior Women's Club.  They also went on what Jackson called "a REAL hike" that involved scaling a mountain, climbing under a fence, twice, a picnic and the loss of two light sabers.  I feel like I'm leaving some stuff out, but they just did too much for me to remember it all.  Both boys had soccer games on Monday.  Deana came to watch them and took these great photos of Ben, as well as these of Jackson.  Jackson's team played really good during the first half, but fell apart a little in the second half, loosing 0-2.  They've lost the last couple of games and now have a record of 1-3-2.  I still think they can win their last game though and could possibly do well in the tournament.  If they don't though, Jackson has really enjoyed playing this year and has once again played with a really good group of kids. 

Today, after volunteering as a tutor at the elementary school, Amy picked up Ben, drove to Claudville to get my grandmother, returned to town to take Hama to the dentist, picked up Jackson, then drove back to Claudville to take Hama back home.  As usual, the boys really enjoyed their time with their great-grandmother.